Top Martial Arts Cities In The UK and Ireland

Whether it be a teenager stepping onto the mats for the first time or a seasoned veteran lacing up the gloves, martial arts, specifically mixed martial arts, has seen a huge growth in the UK.  

Gone are the days when the sport was considered to be an underground fight club. MMA has transcended into something bigger where fans and martial artists alike understand the skill and dedication that goes into mastering the craft.  

The sport began with a simple premise; what is a superior martial art? Since the dawn of the UFC (a famous mixed martial arts promotion), this question has been answered. To be a true martial artist a variety of arts need to be understood. 

Modern martial artists need to have a fundamental grip on the two elements of fighting; striking and grappling. The most common striking art consists of Boxing, Muay Thai, and kickboxing whilst grappling focuses on Wrestling and Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. 

With the exception of boxing, these fighting styles are something that previously has not been shown or practiced in the UK. However, with the UK’s increased attention to the UFC, these martial arts have found their way into UK gyms and it is now common to have multiple training facilities in the same area. 

No longer do fighters hungry to achieve professional status have to train abroad to achieve their goals. Everything needed to make the jump from amateur to professional is right here on the UK’s doorstep. This is perhaps best shown by Birmingham fighter Leon Edwards who is currently sitting on a 10-fight undefeated streak in MMAs toughest proving ground. 

This article will take a look at some of the top fight cities in the UK for students that are looking to start training or even those who are looking to make a career in martial arts.


The University of Birmingham is known for its excellent facilities and a keen interest in giving students the tools to become successful in their chosen sports. This extends to martial arts. Societies range from Kickboxing and Muay Thai, all the way to full MMA. The MMA society has various classes designed to give new and intermediate learners the skills to start their martial arts journey and even compete. The society’s classes range at a cost of between £2-3 with yearly membership of £30. 

As of 2019, the University of Birmingham has introduced a white-collar boxing fight night to its events list. This allows new boxers to learn their trade over a ten-week training period and then experience the highs of competing in front of a student sold-out crowd. 

For those with a little more experience and perhaps looking to compete at an amateur or higher level, the city of Birmingham boasts one of the most successful UK gyms in producing professional MMA talent. Renegade is home to the Edward’s brothers and other known fighters such as Tom Breese. 

Renegade offers evening classes to new martial artists with an opportunity to be invited into renegade fight team practices. This is a great gym for anyone looking to take their martial arts skills to the next level. Renegade offers a monthly student membership of only £45 for all classes. 

University of Birmingham MMA:  



The University of Bristol offers many martial arts societies including some of the more niche styles such as Aikido. Bristol’s MMA society provides weekly training as well as providing female-only sessions so that individuals can practice in an environment where they feel safe. The club has even seen featured guest seminars from UFC and Olympic competitors. Membership costs £20 for the year, with training sessions costing £4. 

Outside of the university campus, Bristol also showcases Sweatbox gym. A quite honestly amazing facility. Sweatbox consists of a gym complete with calisthenics and weight areas, a Jui-Jitsu room, MMA mats, boxing ring, cage, outdoor training area, and treatment room. Sweatbox really is the gym that takes care of all an athlete’s needs under one roof. 

Alongside the gym’s outstanding facilities, the coaching is also excellent. Paul Reed, a UK MMA pioneer, is the head coach of the MMA team. Paul has had 38 professional fights and is deeply passionate about the sport and has now turned his attention to full-time coaching. 

Sweatbox also has strong roots in Jui-Jitsu, with coach Pedro Bessa running the sessions. Pedro’s perhaps most noticeable achievement is the bronze medal he acquired in the World Jui-Jitsu Championship. Sweatbox has a student rate of £50 which includes access to all gym and martial arts classes.  

With the development of local events and initiatives such as True Champion and Reed MMA, Bristol looks set to become a name in the UK MMA scene and a great place for student-athletes to train. 

University of Bristol MMA:  



A comprehensive list of UK MMA gyms would not be complete without the mention of SBG Ireland. SBG is famous for being the gym that created the ‘Notorious’ Conor McGregor, through Irelands first ever Brazilian Jui-Jitsu blackbelt, coach John Kavanagh. The gym has also helped mold several UFC and Bellator fighters, such as Gunnar Nelson and James Gallagher.  

Since John Kavanagh founded the gym in 2001, it has become part of Matt Thorntons straight blast gym international (SBGI) and now has links to 35 gyms worldwide. SBG Ireland has seen changes in locations and has now grown into a 16,000 sq. ft martial arts heaven. The gym has access to a cage, weight room, matted areas, sauna, treatment room, and spacious changing rooms. 

Since neither Trinity College nor University College Dublin has its own dedicated MMA society, SBG, located a 30-minute drive away from both University’s is a great place for students in Dublin to train. The gym offers several packages for varying levels of ability. For beginners the monthly fee costs €130 with prices extending to €160 for more advanced athletes, giving them access to advanced level classes. 

SBG Ireland:  


The UFC has now begun to put on yearly events in London and rightly so. With an ever-growing MMA population in the UK, it only makes sense for the capital to show off the homegrown talent. 

There are many London gyms with highly talented fighters and facilities. Perhaps most noticeable is London Shootfighters gym hosting Bellator superstar Michael ‘Venom’ Page. 

With so many of London’s universities and gyms offering martial arts training, it is more important for an individual to reflect on what their needs are. London students considering picking where they want to train should consider cost, location, and their ability. For example, a martial artist with more experience may choose a gym based on the quality of training partners they have, whilst a beginner may be more interested in beginner classes being available. 

Finally, it should be noted that gyms will often offer a chance for students to train for free before purchasing a membership. It is important to make use of this and make a decision based on the received gym experience. In terms of pricing, for full access to a gym and its resources pricing will vary between £75-150 for the monthly membership. However, a student ID card discount may be offered depending on the gym. 


The University of Leeds has many opportunities for its students to become involved in martial arts. Opportunities range from partaking in competition, volunteering, and even coaching. The university offers a range of martial arts classes with common practices such as Thai boxing and Jui-Jitsu but also has classes such as Wing Chun and Lishi Tai Chi for students wishing to practice some of the more obscure arts.  

AVT is run by Danny Mitchell, a fighter who has fought in the UFC, holds a Jui-Jitsu blackbelt, multiple-time European and British champion in MMA and UK prize-fighter boxing champion. It’s safe to say that students at AVT are getting the best of the best when it comes to coaching. Alongside the coaching, AVT has a great range of training partners with athletes in BAMMA, ONE championship, and more all training in Yorkshires number one MMA gym. The gym offers striking, grappling, and MMA, as well as a ladies academy membership ranging from £49-79 a month. 

University of Leeds martial arts:  



The place to be for some of England’s most exciting prospects, Liverpool is the home of Darren Till, Molly McCann and Paddy ‘the baddy’ Pimblett. A similarity between these fighters and the University of Liverpool is their shared use of the Next Generation MMA gym. 

The gym provides a training facility to Liverpool MMA society, which welcomes people of all abilities and promises members an opportunity to compete if they wish to. The society regularly competes in the Empire grappling contents and has seen individuals with varying skill levels receive bronze, silver, and even gold medals. When not training or competing, the society also offers varying social events for participants, such as Wednesday night drinks or team meals. 

Outside of the society’s use, Next Generation MMA offers a friendly environment in which to learn, tailored programs of structured learning, and even a 2-week free trial. In summary, the gym has something to offer to everybody whether it be throwing their first punch or competing at the sport’s highest level. Memberships range from £70-80 a month or alternatively, sessions cost £7. 


Manchester is the birthplace of British MMA legend Michael Bisping. Bisping is the first and only English fighter to have captured a UFC world title. For those interested in following in his footsteps, or just looking to take up a new hobby, Manchester has something to offer everyone.  

The University of Manchester has its own MMA society that allows beginners and intermediates to, as they describe ‘learn new skills, gain fitness and enjoy social events with like-minded people. The society offers a full kit membership of £40 a term, with sessions costing £3.  

For those with more experience and looking for a gym with elite sparring and training partners, SBG Manchester is a great option. The gym is located in the city centre and has been running for 16 years and has several Cage Warrior, UFC, and Bellator prospects training at the facility. SBG Manchester’s philosophy is to understand what actually works in hand-to-hand combat and to create an environment with uncooperative partners to test these techniques.  SBG offers an opportunity to get involved with a free trial class in either Jui-Jitsu, Submission Grappling, or Striking. The gym offers a discounted offer of £79 all-inclusive membership to students with a free taster session. 

University of Manchester MMA:  

SBG Manchester:  


Another hot UK destination for MMA is Wales with UFC fighters such as Jack shore and Jack Marshman being produced.   

Whilst Swansea University doesn’t have a Specific MMA society, it contains Kickboxing, karate, Judo, and Jui-Jitsu societies, that will give students a solid martial arts foundation.   

For those beginners that are hungry for the full MMA experience, Ultra MMA host shows in Swansea that provides a free 10-week training course for beginners to compete against each other at the end of the training. The organization aims to improve participants’ physical and mental health, whilst giving them a life-changing experience that’s aids cancer research.  

Alongside the university, Swansea offers Chris Rees academy. Chris Rees was the first Welsh person to be awarded a Jui-Jitsu blackbelt back in 2004. The academy caters to both beginners and advanced students and offers classes in; submission grappling, Jui-Jitsu, striking, professional fight classes, and live training. Rees academy has links in Bridgend, Bristol, and Cardiff. Students looking to get complete access to all of these facilities and classes can do so for the price of £75, with a free 7-day trial. 

Swansea University society’s:  

Ultra MMA:  

Chris Rees Academy:  

While this list provides some great places to train, do not fear if you have already committed to a university not on this list. The majority of universities will have martial arts clubs, as well as opportunities to compete. As mentioned, the growth of martial arts has seen a huge rise, so the majority of locations will have access to at least one martial arts facility. 

Finally enjoy the process! With so many great gyms available ensure the one that you pick suits your needs and is a place you look forward to visiting. OSS.

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